Profile of Peter – A Disciple of Christ

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Profile of Peter – A Disciple of Christ’

© April 18, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on A Message Shared at BLCF on May 6, 2018

BLCF Bulletin May 6, 2018 

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Announcements and Call to Worship, Prayer

Opening Hymn #192: Joys Are Flowing Like a River (Blessed Quietness); Choruses

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Responsive Reading #620 (The Church – Matthew 16, Ephesians 5 and 2, 1 Corinthians 12, Colossians 1)

Message by Steve Mickelson: Profile of Peter – A Disciple of Christ’

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Praise and Worship Service on this Sunday at BLCF Church. My lesson today is entitled: ‘Profile of Peter – A Disciple of Christ’. Your bulletin today contains a series of verses from the Bible which give us a good idea of both the gifts and personality of this disciple of our Christ, Jesus, our Lord, and Saviour.

Just as significant we may learn that as disciples of the Resurrected Christ, our doubts and faith insecurities or lack of trust can play havoc with our relationship with the Lord. But God is patient, loving and willing for us to restore ourselves in a renewed righteous walk with Him. He will never leave nor forsake His children.

The graphic on the front of today’s Bulletin illustrates the Lord extends his hand to Peter, who sank in the water while attempting to walk with Jesus upon the sea. Peter was the only disciple who showed an inclination to attempt this supernatural miracle.

Let us begin with Peter’s initial calling to the ministry of the Lord.

We have three different verses, which at first blush give different and contradictory descriptions of how and when Peter was called by Jesus, to serve the Lord. In his commentary, Charles Spurgeon gives a good explanation of these verses that some critics cite as examples of inconsistencies in the Gospels of Matthew and John.

I have taken the liberty of expanding the verses used by Spurgeon, in order to give a clearer context to his commentary and have inserted the verses after each passage. So John 1:37 is replaced with John 1:35-42; Matthew 4:18-19 with Matthew 4:18-22; and Matthew 10:1-2 with Matthew 10:1-4.

Later, towards the end of the lesson, I would like to suggest a fourth passage from the Scriptures, in the 21 Chapter of John’s Gospel, where a resurrected Jesus reconciles with his disciple for the sins of denying Christ three times, and Peter, again, is called to follow Jesus

.

Let us begin with the Three Contradictory Calls to Peter by Charles Spurgeon posted on the  Web Page, www.Jesus.org :

Three Contradictory Calls to Peter – Charles Spurgeon

Adapted from Spurgeon’s Sermons, Peter’s Three Calls (No. 702), by Charles Spurgeon. http://www.jesus.org/life-of-jesus/disciples/three-contradictory-calls-to-peter.html

John tells us that Peter was called by Christ through the preaching of John the Baptist, who bore witness that Jesus was Christ, the Messiah (John 1:37).

John 1:35-42 (ESV): Jesus Calls the First Disciples

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.[a]40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus[b] was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter[c]).

Footnotes: a. John 1:39 That is, about 4 p.m. b. John 1:40 Greek him c. John 1:42 Cephas and Peter are from the word for rock in Aramaic and Greek, respectively

Matthew, on the other hand, tells us that Peter and his brother were fishing, that Christ was walking by the lake of Galilee, and that as He passed by He saw these men fishing, called them by name, and said, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:18-19).

Matthew 4:18-22 (ESV): Jesus Calls the First Disciples

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”[a]20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 4:19 The Greek word anthropoi refers here to both men and women

Now, the key to the whole may be found in the fact that there was yet a third call, and that afterward, Jesus called not Peter and Andrew alone, but the whole twelve of His disciples and set them apart to be Apostles (Matthew 10:1-2).

Matthew 10:1-4 (ESV): The Twelve Apostles

10 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;[a]Simon the Zealot,[b] and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 10:3 Some manuscripts Lebbaeus, or Lebbaeus called Thaddaeus b. Matthew 10:4 Greek kananaios, meaning zealot

We gather from this last call that the other two might have been different and distinct from each other. Coming to look at the subject we find that the first call was the call at Peter’s conversion, which called him to be a disciple while still at his daily work as a fisherman. The second was the call of Peter, not to be a mere disciple, but to be an evangelist. And the third was the call of Peter, not to be an Evangelist or a common servant of the Master, but to be a leader, to take a yet higher grade, and to become one of the Twelve who should be associated with Christ as the founders of the new system of religion and witnesses of the life of Christ.

To recap, the three accounts of Peter’s calling may be viewed as describing the progression of his faith walk from believer to a follower, and then to become an Apostle or messenger of the Lord.

Even as a disciple, Peter showed signs of Devine insight and awareness as he identifies Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Matthew 16:13-18 (ESV): Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:18 The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar b. Matthew 16:18 Greek the gates of Hades

While Jesus usually demonstrated an example of humility by calling himself “the Son of Man”, the Lord blesses Peter for recognizing Him as the Son of God by telling the disciple will be the foundational leader, whom He intends to build His church. A church which shall prevail against the gates of hell.

But the road to establishing Christ’s church is not fraught with a bump or two, or even three. Jesus predicts that Peter’s faith will falter and the disciple will deny knowing the Son of God.

Luke 22:31-34 (ESV): Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,[a] that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”33 Peter[b] said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus[c] said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 22:31 The Greek word for you (twice in this verse) is plural; in verse 32, all four instances are singular b. Luke 22:33 Greek He c. Luke 22:34 Greek He

You will note in Verse 32, that Jesus, also indicated that Peter’s loss of faith will not be complete, as the disciple will turn back to the Lord and become a source of strength and encouragement to the other disciples.

Luke 22:54-62 (ESV): Peter Denies Jesus

54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance.55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them.56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.”57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.”60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

Peter wept bitterly, for he realized just Jesus had indicated that though Satan would have his way with the disciple, like Job, the Lord would not allow Satan to take his soul. The challenge to Peter’s faith continued, and the disciple who first perceived Jesus as the Messiah, could not understand that that the power that allowed Jesus to perform supernatural miracles, such as walking on water, healing the infirm, and raising Lazarus from the dead, would be able to overcome death.

John 20:1-10 (ESV): The Resurrection

20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’[a]head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Footnotes: a. John 20:7 Greek his

We see that Simon Peter and John had a footrace to investigate Mary Magdalene ’s report that the body of Jesus was missing from the tomb. While John had arrived first to the tomb, the disciple hesitated at the entrance. But when Simon Peter reached the tomb, he entered without hesitation in a bold manner, not unlike the way he decided to join Jesus for a walk upon the sea. We see that John followed Simon Peter inside and both disciples could not understand that the empty tomb was another fulfillment of Scriptural prophecy.

Jesus would reveal himself in the Upper Room to his disciples, including Peter, as the Resurrected Christ, on two occasions. The second time was eight days after the first, for the benefit of Thomas, who was absent from the first revelation of the Lord, and to allay the skepticism and doubt expressed by the disciple.

The third revelation of the Jesus happened as the disciples were fishing, without success, at the Sea of Tiberias. When Simon Peter recognized the Lord, he dove into the sea. Following Jesus directions as to where to cast their nets, they were rewarded with a bountiful catch. Peter climbed aboard the boat to help his fellow disciples haul in the nets bearing their great catch.

After Jesus and the disciples had breakfast together which included the freshly caught fish, the Lord and Peter had a conversation together, where he offered the disciple an opportunity to be forgiven and reconciled, by stating his love for the Lord three times. One acknowledgment for each denial Simon Peter made on the night that Jesus was arrested. I consider this passage found in Chapter 21 of John’s Gospel to be the fourth calling of Peter by Jesus that I mentioned earlier in the lesson.

John 21:15-19 (ESV): Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

With the reconciliation of Simon Peter and the Jesus complete, the Lord charges his disciple with the care of his church.  The church would be established on the Day of Pentecost, when Jesus sent the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the presence of God, to all who respond to the call of God by repenting their sins, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of their sins.

Acts 2:36-41 (ESV)

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

The gifts of salvation and reconciliation to God, the Father, through His Son Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit of God, are available to all people and for all generations. We need to acknowledge the gifts of salvation and reconciliation, the promise of our own resurrection, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, by sharing the Gospel of Christ Jesus unto the ends of the earth, until the day Christ Jesus returns.

The other instruction given by Jesus is: to eat and drink the elements of communion on a regular basis, as a church, in order to recognize how death, which is God’s judgment upon humanity for our sin that was removed through the sacrificial death of Jesus upon the cross. Like sharing the Gospel of Christ, communion must be observed until the day that Christ, Jesus returns, to judge the living and the dead.

Just like Peter, any sin we have committed may be forgiven if we acknowledge our faith and love in the Lord, so that we may enjoy a fellowship with the Lord and each other, as members of the Family of God, through Christ, Jesus!

Let us pray…

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Closing Hymn #417: What a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 1:30):

“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” Go in Peace! Amen.

Are You Running from God’s Judgment or towards His Grace?

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: run_race

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Are You Running from God’s Judgment or towards His Grace?

© April 11, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based On Messages Originally Published September 19, 2010 and on July 13, 2014

BLCF Bulletin 13, 2014

BLCF: Cross_Runners

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading # 648 ( A Challenge to Faith – Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer                                             

Opening Hymn #200: The Church’s One Foundation; Choruses

Tithing & Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings 

Scriptures: Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 Corinthians 9:24, Acts 20:24, and 2 Timothy 4:7 

BLCF: MARATHON-RUN

Let us pray…

In this age of instant fast foods, instant bank tellers (a.k.a. bank machines), movies on demand, and instant access to a wealth of information via the internet, it is refreshing to slow the tempo of our surroundings and do something that requires more than just a few minutes of our time to complete. For some, such low tempo activities includean extended period of unstructured time, untethered to clocks, schedules or timetables. For others, it is the challenge of completing a goal that involves continuous effort for a protracted period of time, dedication, commitment and provides a goal worthy of the effort.

One such event is the marathon, a cross-country run, not run as a competition between individual participants, but as a vehicle for a group of people to raise awareness and funds, by its participants in order to recognize or help others who suffer from, are afflicted by or have died from a disease or affliction. An example of one such marathon for a cause is the Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research, which occurs annually every around September 14, on the second Sunday after Labour Day.

BLCF: TerryFoxRun-banner-2014-EN

The Terry Fox Run takes place annually on the second Sunday after Labour Day. The Terry Fox Run dates over the years:

2014September 1434th Anniversary
2015September 2035th Anniversary
2021September 1941st Anniversary

Some people run in marathons for personal satisfaction of completing the challenge of the race. For others it is all about the cause.

The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometers (26 miles and 385 yards), which is usually run as a road race. The event was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon (the namesake of the race) to Athens. Upon completion of the run where Pheidippides reported a victory, he collapsed and died. While he had died he completed his task and gave the message which gave hope and joy to the people of Athens.

BLCF: gal_grk_oly_running

Today, many marathon races are run to commemorate a person or just cause. Often the person and the cause are inseparable, such as the Terry Fox Run. Though he never finished his race, the effort and idea of running across Canada to raise awareness of, and funding for, Cancer was a victory for him.

We have with the Terry Fox Run, no individual winners; only a common desire amongst the runners to defeat Cancer. In our race as Christians, we run together to defeat Satan, to defeat death and win victories for God.

BLCF: running_the_race

While Paul and other authors of the Scriptures speak of running or winning a race, I think the God was not speaking of a short sprint or even a middle or long distance event. God was talking of a long endurance race, such as the marathon. A life-long marathon.

And how do we prepare ourselves for in the long run, (if you excuse the pun)? God does provide us with a “Runners Handbook” in His Word. Here are a few of the important verses to prepare us for the race of life, beginning where the Bible describes ways of preparing the believer for the challenges encountered along the way of a lifelong “Christian Walk:

BLCF: armour_of_God

Ephesians 6:10-20, describes them as wearers of ‘The Whole Armour of God’.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

And in 1 Chronicles 12:22, talks of the ‘The Army of God.’

22 For from day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army, like an army of God.

We are part of the “army of God”, engaged in battle, wearing the armour of God. But armour is not the only analogy given to our Faith Walk.

BLCF:armyofgod

The Bible in 1 Corinthians 12:27, also, describes Christian believers as part of the “body of Christ”.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

BLCF: Body of Christ

Looking at 2 Corinthians 5:20,we are “Christ’s ambassadors”; His envoys, representing him in this world.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Ephesians 5:22-33 describes the church of believers as “bride of Jesus”, with Christ being the groom, described similar to the relationship between a wife and husband.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Footnotes: a. Or holy and blameless

BLCF: temple-body

The Bible likens us in 1 Corinthians 3:17, to a “temple of God”.

17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

 We are “healthy branches” and Christ is the vine, as described in John15:5.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

BLCF: salt_of_the_earth

Matthew 5:13-16, characterizes Christian believers as “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world”.

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:16 Or house. 16Let your light so shine before others that

Each one of these is varied and each one is valid.  Each one could easily take a sermon to explain and understand.

However, let me simplify all of them by describing them an aspect of our personal relationship with God. As soldiers in God’s army, wearing God’s armor we battle both Satan and sin. God is our Commander-in-Chief; the Bible gives us both His strategy and the weapons to battle within the scriptures. However, the battle, that challenges both our determination and tests our endurance, is lifelong; but great are the victories won, if we stay faithful in serving the Lord. Victory is found in souls saved from the final judgment of death by receiving God’s love and avoiding the obstacles Satan places in our path. The gaol and reward is salvation and eternal life.

Once we have made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, having confessed our sins, and committing ourselves to God, we are immediately appointed His ambassadors. As ambassadors our passports are stamped by the precious blood of Christ who died for our sins. As so we carry the diplomatic immunity from judgment for our sins. But we are expected to represent the Kingdom of God in an appropriate and fitting manner. Our diplomatic mandate requires us to understand God’s purpose and policies, as outlined in the Bible. And as Holy diplomats, we must use the gifts given us by the Holy Spirit to walk, talk and act as messengers of truth. Otherwise, we lose credibility and do our appointed position a disservice and dishonor the One who sacrificed so much that we may be His representatives, unto the ends of the world.

BLCF: Jesus_meeting_bride

A bride and groom are joined together in marriage until death. That is until death bids them to part. But God expects married partners not to be unequally-yoked. Like a pair of oxen, of one we stronger than the other. Otherwise the cart or the plough, or whatever the team pull, would be drawn into circles. God wants us walking a straight path, with straight rows, not making crazy crop circles. A bride and groom are kept together because they share the same values, seek the same goals, and work together in harmony. Jesus, the groom, did His part to provide for his bride, which is the church, by fulfilling the scriptures and being the last and final sacrificial lamb for all of humanity. Every believer; man and woman, Jew and Gentile, adult and child, alike may be judged sinless forever in God’s eyes’ thanks to the sacrifice of Christ.

And the bride in this relationship, being the Church, has the responsibility to maintain and nourish the faith; to ensure all her children understand the message of the Gospel, as well as God’s unconditional gift of love. Not for only a day; not until the kids are grown; and not until retirement; but until death, which in God’s time frame, forever! Forever includes this lifetime, the next, as well as the hereafter.

BLCF: socil_media_scrapbook

A married couple may have a wedding album to mark that special day, with all the events of the day being recorded by the photos,  as well as by saved mementos which, when added to the photos, make the scrapbook a tapestry of a life event. This album is often followed by other albums to record other important events, such as: birthdays, vacations, anniversaries and other significant events of a whole lifetime bound within the albums’ collective pages. Today, tech savvy couples may post such images on social media pages, such as Facebook, Flickr, BLOGs and Instagram on the Internet for the whole world to see. To make a good impression, these social media albums are edited to show only the best images of what we do.

BLCF: BOOK-OF-LIFE

The Lord keeps an album too, sometimes referred to our “Book of Life”. Unlike our scrapbook albums, this one has a record of all that we do, say and think; the good as well as the bad. But like our album, all of the good and bad will be posted for all to see come Judgment Day. That is a daunting thought, for instead of warranting a title such as “The Highlights of My Life”, the title for such a Book might have one sounding like a spaghetti western title like “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of My Life”! To the Lord the content of this Judgement Book that is important to Him includes: whether we have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour; whether we have confessed our sins; and perhaps most importantly, have we embarked upon the race that the Lord has set for us as Christian believers: to spread the Gospel to others and whether we grew in faith and trust in His Way.

Before I get carried away, and attempt to comment on all of these examples of our Christian walk, let me address the topic of this Sunday’s message: ‘Are you running from God’s judgment or towards His grace’?  There is another analogy of the Christian walk, but the Apostle Paul describes it as a race, like a marathon. With a few exceptions, the runners of these races are not necessarily running the race as competitors against each other, but like the marathons for a just cause, as a group running with the common goal of just making it to the finish line by overcoming the challenges of obstacles, such as the wall of pain and exhaustion. They must find inner strength from within and demonstrate to the world that they can continue the race into to the end.

BLCF: Woman Running

I have a sister-in-law, Suuzi who is a triathlete. She does triathlons, which include three endurance races combined in a single marathon race. Part of the race is in the water; part is like the original marathon is on foot; and part is on bicycle. One of Suuzi’s first races took place in Hamilton, early in the month May, with the first leg to be swum in Hamilton Harbor. My brother-in -law recorded that race with over three hundred participants at the starting line.  At the start of the race,  we  see that the starting gun goes off and the triathletes run into water. In the next scene of the video, about half of the participants doing a 180 – turnaround and run right back out of the water.

BLCF: cold water swim

If you are curious as to how cold the water of Lake Ontario can be in early May, ask Sophie as she was baptized in Lake Ontario at Sunnyside Park in the month of May.

I believe Suuzi was one of those who ran in, then out of the lake. She and the other runners were not prepared for the conditions of the lake. Eventually Suuzi re-entered the lake and eventually finished her race.

BLCF: kangaroos

Recently, Suuzi lived in Australia for a couple of years, and while on the road had her training run interrupted by a gang of kangaroos, which surrounded Suuzi on the roadside. This kangaroo encounter, while somewhat bizarre and sounding humorous could have had a very serious outcome, as the hopping marsupials are well known for their aggressive and combative behavior. Fortunately, Suuzi escaped from the encounter, unharmed. After she escaped the kangaroo threat, Suuzi actually returned to the same location with her husband, camera in hand, hoping to take a photograph the ‘roos. Come to think of it, it is likely that Suzie’s photo albums, at least those documenting her runs, are likely to be quite different from the norm.

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, those running the ‘Race of Christian Faith’, we must be prepared for the unexpected, which is Satan’s way of distracting us from our goal of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

BLCF: 15km_kangaroo_sign

In school I used to like running to middle distance races. A middle distance was 880 yards before metrification or 800 meters today. I recall during one practice run, where I knew none of my opponents. I had taken, and was maintaining, a lead over the rest of the pack for most of the race, with one pesky runner, whose name was Alan, maintained a pace beside and behind me for most of the race.

At one point of the race, near the last thirty yards of the finish line, Alan looked at me with a show of apparent concern saying, “You look tired! Are you OK? Maybe you should take it easy, as it is only a practice.”

For me that was I all I needed to hear. My legs and arms were burning, my lungs bursting at my efforts and Alan’s words spoke to me of everything that my body felt. I was done, as Alan had effectively broken my focus enough to pass me and win the race.

BLCF: hebrews-12-what-makes-the-course-worth-running

In our race on the Glory Road, we too have someone like Satan whispering in our ears that the water is too cold to swim or that we have reached an insurmountable wall. Even something as innocuous as “Oh look a bunch of kangaroos”. Whatever it is, we must resist the temptation to stop or quit the race. For in quitting, we hand the garland of victory to Satan!

We must not be diverted from our route or distracted from the goal in our race. Satan loves to chill the water in which we swim or throw a kangaroo or two in our path. He will do anything to make us lose our focus and ultimately to stop us from running God’s race. Remember, that Jesus, immediately following his baptism and having received the Holy Spirit, was taken into the desert, where he fasted and was repeatedly tested by Satan. But Jesus, through faith in His Father, and by his knowledge of the scriptures, stayed on track and defeated Satan. Jesus’ victory was our victory. Jesus did not allow himself to be detoured from his appointed path to defeat sin on our behalf.

BLCF: rooted_in_faith

Having prepared ourselves for the race, let us review the race set before us:

Hebrews 12:1-3 (ESV)

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

BLCF: 1Corinthins_9_24-27

         1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV) 

4Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  

BLCF: the-race-of-faith-Hebrews_12_1-2

The goal of our race is testify to the Gospel of Christ and to keep the faith:

  Acts 20:24 (ESV)  

24But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 

  2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV)

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

And if we set upon the marathon of our life, intent to share, without distraction, the Gospel of Christ and keep our faith in the Lord, then when our race is run. We may claim for ourselves the rewards of our efforts to draw closer to the Lord’s “Throne of Grace”, so that we may receive His mercy and, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, find the grace to help those who have not yet found it.

BLCF: runner
BLCF: Phillipians_313

Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

 14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.                                                                                          

Let Us Pray…

BLCF: Christian_Faith

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

Benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14): The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

BLCF: hebrews12_1_new

God’s Easter Miracles: In a Tomb; On a Road; and In a Room

Believe!

have faith this too shall pass

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:          

‘God’s Easter Miracles: In a Tomb; On a Road; and In a Room’

© April 4, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 21, 2019 and on April 20, 2014

BLCF Bulletin April 21, 2019

BLCF: Bulletin April 20, 2014

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn: #163: Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests  

Responsive Reading #623: The Risen Lord (– Matthew 28 and John 20)

Message by Steve Mickelson:‘God’s Easter Miracles: In a Tomb; On a Road; and In a Room’ 

  

 Let us pray…

‘He is risen!’ 

Congregation’s reply: ‘He is risen, indeed!’

Today is the day we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection from his death upon the cross at Golgotha. The world is full of many religions, many false gods, and worship a variety of idols. But only Christ, the Son of the one true God, performed the miraculous and supernatural act of returning from the dead.

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared neither on just a single occasion nor only to the eleven apostles.

For today’s lesson, we will study four events, where the Resurrected Christ came to those who loved and believed their Saviour, which occurred in three places: in a tomb; on a road; and in a room.

Let us look at these meetings with the Lord in their proper chronology and begin with the account in John’s gospel, Chapter 20, verses 1-18, which give the account of Mary Magdalene, who arrived at the tomb of Jesus on the first day of the week, only to find the gravestone rolled away and the tomb empty.

John 20:1-18 (ESV): The Resurrection

20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’[a] head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Footnotes: a. John 20:7 Greek his b.John 20:16 Or Hebrew

The Scriptures indicate that Mary ran to report her discovery to Peter and to another, referred in this passage as the ‘other disciple.’

You may ask what is the identity of the ‘other disciple’ mentioned in this account?

Most scholars agree that the ‘other disciple’ is John. This also makes sense, in that referring to himself as the ‘other disciple’, in the third person, John not only demonstrate humility, but avoids a narrative that uses the personal pronouns I and me, which could cause the reader to stray from the focus of the passage, the Lord’s victory over death.

And Mary Magdalene, the first to find the tomb empty, became the first to meet Jesus after his resurrection. We see that Mary, while weeping at the tomb, first encounters two angels inside the tomb, where the head and feet of Christ’s body had lain.

You may recall in Exodus 3:2, when Moses first approached God’s Presence within the Burning Bush on Mount Horeb, he encountered an angel of God.

 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.

We read in Exodus 25:18-21, that two angels adorned the Ark of the Covenant, positioned in much the same manner as the two Mary Magdalene encountered in the tomb of Christ:

18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you.

In contrast to the angels on the Ark of the Covenant, the angels encountered by Mary Magdalene in Christ’s tomb do not face inwards, but outwards. By Christ’s sacrifice, the judgment seat of God has been removed and God’s presence is no longer contained in the Ark of the Covenant, as all believers now contain God’s presence, as we become Arks of God’s New Covenant. And so the angels look outward.

As believers in Christ, who took our judgment upon himself, we are saved from the eternal death judgment for sin, and like the Lord, we will be resurrected from the grave, when Christ returns. This is God’s covenant.

The next encounter with the Resurrected Christ occurs with two Disciples of Christ on the Road to Emmaus, described in Luke 24:13-35.

Luke 24:13-35 (ESV): On the Road to Emmaus

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Footnotes: a. Luke 24:13 Greek sixty stadia; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters

In the Emmaus account, which gives the name of one of the two disciples as Cleopas, we have the pair telling the Lord how they had hoped before his crucifixion; they had hoped that Israel had been delivered. To which the Lord chides them, saying (in verses 25-25):

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

It is only after breaking of the bread, does Christ reveal himself.

It is important to note that these two disciples did not initially recognize this stranger as Christ, which is similar to Mary Magdalene’s mistaking the Lord as a gardener or groundkeeper at the cemetery.

Our next encounter with the Resurrected Christ comes from John 20:19-29, where our Lord appears before the disciples. This occurs on the evening of the same day after he had met Mary Magdalene in the morning and the two disciples on the Emmaus Road. This time Jesus meets the disciples in the same Upper Room where he shared the Passover Supper before his crucifixion, as described in John 20:19-23 (ESV):

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[a] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time

In this encounter, Jesus announces his presence by saying:

“Peace be with you.” And after showing them his hands and side, the Lord gives the eleven the assignment or commission to share his Gospel, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Having received the Holy Spirit and been instructed that the Lord is sending them, as he was sent by the Father, the disciples no longer are disciples or students of the Lord but become his Apostles. Wikipedia defines an apostle as:

The word “apostle” derives from the Ancient Greek word ἀπόστολος (apóstólos), meaning “messenger” or “envoy” that was formed from the prefix ἀπό- (apó-, “from”) and root στέλλω (stéllō, “I send”, “I depart”).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostle_(Christian)

However, in spite of the testimonies of Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on Emmaus Road, and to his fellow disciples, now apostles, the disciple Thomas refuses to believe in the resurrection of Jesus without visible proof, as we read in John 20:24-29 (ESV):

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin,[a] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time b. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

The fourth and final encounter with the Resurrected Lord takes place in the same Upper Room that he appeared before other disciples, some eight days later. This time Thomas is present and the Lord instructs him to touch the wounds on his hands and side, and telling the disciple, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Though Jesus did not initially reveal himself to the two disciples encountered on the Emmaus Road, he was not recognized by Mary Magdalene at the tomb where he was buried. Mary mistook our Lord at first as a gardener or groundskeeper, until he spoke her name.

After being informed by Mary Magdalene of the empty tomb, the disciples Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves. While John 20 indicates that the disciples believed, it also indicates that they did not understand the Scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.

When Christ first appeared to the eleven disciples, in the Upper Room, he showed them his hands and side, revealing the wounds from the crucifixion. Jesus returned again to the twelve disciples in the Upper Room, this time to show Thomas the same wounds he had shown to the other disciples some eight days previous.

The question arises: Why did the disciples not believe the reports that Christ was alive and risen from the dead? And why was it necessary for Jesus to show them tangible evidence, such as the wounds from the cross, to convince the disciples? After all, the disciples were part of Jesus’ inner circle for over three years. They had seen Christ’s miracles and had heard his gospel, and still, they had to see tangible evidence of the miracle of the Lord’s resurrection! That is why the Lord breathed God’s Holy Spirit into the disciples in order to equip them for their new Commission as Apostles of Christ’s Gospel.

Before Jesus died, because of sin, people practiced a religion filled with good works in order to worship God. They had to make sacrifices to God for their transgressions and communicated with God through such intermediaries as holy prophets or high priests. Worship involved performing visible, tangible actions to honor God.

Through Jesus, God reveals His new Paradigm for His relationship with His people. The term “paradigm” was a popular buzzword that was perhaps overused throughout the 1990s. For those unfamiliar with it, let us consult dictionary.com:

par·a·digm /ˈpærəˌdaɪm, -dɪm/ Show Spelled [par-uh-dahym, -dim] Show IPA noun  

an example serving as a model; pattern. Synonyms: mold, standard; ideal, paragon, touchstone.

 such a cognitive framework shared by members of any discipline or group: the company’s business paradigm.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paradigm

Jesus implemented the new paradigm for humanity’s relationship with God, by removing the stigma for the sin of humanity by taking upon himself both the judgment and punishment for sin. At his first appearance in the Upper Room, we see in John 20, that he commissioned the disciples, sending them to go forth, as the Father in heaven had sent him. And knowing that he was soon to ascend to heaven, Jesus breathed upon them the Holy Spirit of God, which was the first Pentecost. Some forty days after his ascension to heaven, Christ sent God’s Holy Spirit to the rest of the believers gathered in the same Upper Room. After that, the Spirit, which is God’s presence, came upon those believers, who accepted Christ as savior; confessed their sins; and have chosen to follow the Way of the Lord.

At this point, the disciples were no longer students of the Lord, but having received the Spirit, become Apostles or messengers of his gospel of forgiveness, sanctification, and following the Day of Pentecost. As Apostles, believers are vessels of God’s Holy Spirit or Arks of God’s New Covenant. God’s new Paradigm is His New Covenant, which not only includes salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit but the promise of our own resurrection. And like the twelve Apostles, we are commissioned as messengers of Christ’s gospel.

The most important part of this passage, which all Christians who did not live in the time when Christ walked before his crucifixion should note, are the words that were spoken by Jesus to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Though after his ascension, Jesus did appear to Stephen, Saul or Paul and John, most Christians have made a faith conversion base upon what they believe, not what they have seen.  This is God’s new Paradigm for humanity. Since the Day of Pentecost, all believers in the unseen receive by faith, the Holy Spirit of God to become Apostles of Christ. As Apostles, we are charged to share his gospel of salvation and God’s New Covenant, which is eternal life.

So let us close today’s message with the same exclamation that awaits the believers reply, “He is risen!”

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain                                                      

Benediction – (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24):

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

The Good Friday Story

have faith this too shall pass

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

‘The Good Friday Story’

© April 2, 2021,  by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message shared with BLCF Church and the Toronto Vineyard on March 30, 2018

BLCF Bulletin Good Friday March 30, 2018

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #130: Tell Me the Story of Jesus; Choruses                                                                                

Prayers and Tithing; Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings         

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Good Friday Story’

Let us pray…

Welcome to the annual Good Friday Worship Service. Our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Good Friday Story’ we will examine the Crucifixion of Jesus on that Friday following Passover nearly 2,000 years ago from the perspective of several key people, who either witnessed or were involved in the events of the day.

We begin our story with Simon Peter, from Matthew 16:13-19 (ESV):

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:18 The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar b. Matthew 16:18 Greek the gates of Hades

While one disciple receives a blessing for correctly identifying Jesus as the Son of God, another is cursed for betraying the Lord, Matthew 27:3-5 (ESV):

Judas Hangs Himself

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus[a] was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.

Footnotes:a.Matthew 27:3 Greek he

While Jesus indicated that the perception and faith of the Peter had earned the disciple the promised appointment as the foundational rock of his church, with an entitlement to the keys to the kingdom of heaven, the Lord had also predicted that the Galilean would betray his master three times in the on the night of his betrayal, Mark 14:66-72 (ESV):

Peter Denies Jesus

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway[a] and the rooster crowed.[b] 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.[c]

Footnotes: a. Mark 14:68 Or forecourt b. Mark 14:68 Some manuscripts omit and the rooster crowed c. Mark 14:72 Or And when he had thought about it, he wept

The feeling of guilt had driven one disciple to tears of remorse and another to suicide.

The Son of God would receive a crown of thorns in a sadistic coronation, crucified upon the cross bearing a sign written by Pilate signifying Jesus as King of the Jews,  John 19:16-30 (ESV):

16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

The Crucifixion

So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.[a]But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom,24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

The Death of Jesus

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Footnotes: a. John 19:23 Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin

As Jesus had both his life and blood drained on that wooden tree of death and just before committing his spirit to the Father in heaven, he committed his mother and his disciple John to care for each other. Later, Mary and the other women would go to a tomb provided by a wealthy disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, for the lifeless body of Christ, and John cloistered himself with the other disciples fearful of the same fate as their Lord, Matthew 27:51-66 (ESV):    

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son[a] of God!”

55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Jesus Is Buried

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[b] of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 27:54 Or a son b. Matthew 27:65 Or Take a guard

As Jesus had surrendered his life and spirit on the lonely cross of death, the earth shuddered and trembled. Pilate fearing the removal of the body of Christ from the tomb had the entrance cover stone secured with a seal and placed guards at the entrance.

Jesus was perceived to pose such a great threat to the chief priests, elders, and other members of the mob, they conspired with the assistance of Pilate to accomplish what King Herod I of Judea’s soldiers could not do: put baby to death, when the king ordered his soldiers to kill all the male babies, in what was described as the Massacre of the Innocents. With the death of Jesus on the cross, they felt the Prince of Peace was now dead to the world and was no longer a threat to their hypocrisy and their business of running the temple. The self-righteous expected that they would no longer have to deal with his biting remarks, regardless of how accurate or truthful.

It seemed now to be the end of an era for this gifted teacher who preached a new faith in God and promised a New Covenant, where the sinner and righteous would be treated the same way if they demonstrated faith and trust in the Lord.

To those involved, it seemed all that remained after the death of Jesus would be the grieving. Passover or Pesach had come, and neither bitter herbs nor marked door posts or lintels could stop the cloud of death from taking the life of Mary’s first-born son.

On that day, it was as if all the disciples had forgotten the message of hope announced by the host of angels, when a heavenly star had pointed to the humble birthplace of the long-awaited Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of lords, the only Son of God, who also was God the Son.

The disciples were thrust into a world of lost hopes, of grief and fear, of unfulfilled promises that were devoid of joy. It seemed that all miracles and lessons from their Lord were forgotten and made hollow by the death of their teacher. I wonder if at this time the disciples remembered Jesus’ lesson of the Breaking of the Bread and the meaning Sharing of Chalice of the Wine taught at the Passover Meal before his death? Did the disciples share these elements of Communion in an act of faith, awaiting their Lord’s promise to return? Or were the disciples so fearful and introspective in absence of the Holy Spirit, that they remained barricaded in that Upper Chamber fearing the same fate of Jesus would befall them?

From the Scriptures, it appeared none of the disciples would go outside that Upper Chamber, save for the women who ventured to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Christ. Perhaps Mary still had in her possession some of the myrrh, an oil used to embalm the dead, brought by one of the Magi as a tribute to the baby Jesus?

We do not know what became of the Thomas in the days following the burial of Jesus, but the Scriptures indicate the disciple was absent from the Upper Room.

Luke 24:13-35 gives the account of two disciples, Cleopas and an unnamed companion, who felt that the teachings of Jesus had ended with his death on the cross, as they were departing on the Road to Emmaus. It is likely the two were not the only followers of Christ who felt when Jesus announced, “It is finished” viewed the Lord’s pronouncement to be about his ministry, though he was actually talking about the completing the payment off the debt for the sins of humanity.

Paul Harvey and The Rest of the Story

In the latter half of his career, Paul Harvey was also known for the radio series The Rest of the Story, described as a blend of mystery and history, which premiered on May 10, 1976. The series quickly grew to six broadcasts a week, and continued until Harvey’s death in 2009. The Rest of the Story series was written and produced by the broadcaster’s son, Paul Harvey, Jr., from its outset and for its thirty-three year duration. Harvey and his radio network stated that the stories in that series, although entertaining, were completely true.[14] 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Harvey

Over the span of 30 years, a journalist named Paul Harvey had a radio broadcast, where he would deliver what at first blush, seemed to be innocuous news stories that my father, a career media journalist, would classify as “puffball news”. A puffball news story named for the puffball, a member of any of several groups of fungi in the division Basidiomycota. The distinguishing feature of all puffballs, which look like a very large mushroom, is the absence of an open cap with spore-bearing gills, as its spores are produced internally. Puffballs grow to a rather large size on the outside, however, when cut open are found to be hollow and empty on the inside, save for some spores which may puff upwards and out from the cap on a hot day.

Back to Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story,” the first two minutes of his broadcast sounded like a light-news puffball story typically broadcast on a slow news cycle. A puffball is used as a filler on a slow news day.

The first two or three minutes of the broadcast began as a normal, ordinary news story with a seemingly predictable conclusion until Harvey would pause and announce, “And now for the rest of the story. The next segment of the story would then take an unexpected, often surprising turn in the direction towards its final conclusion. This unexpected turn of events in the story’s narrative was the hook that drew a large audience who followed the Harvey stories to hear this “truth is often stranger than fiction,” conclusions to the Harvey stories.

So it seems that life and promise brought by Jesus may appear initially to the disciples just a predictable account of events, following the Lord’s death on the cross.

At this point of our Good Friday lesson, we say would say: “And now for the rest of the story of Jesus,” which the disciples might have described an ending considered that considered as unexpected, earth-shattering, and life-changing. It seems as if they had forgotten or suppressed much of what Jesus had prophesized about his death and resurrection until they witnessed the events unfolded as Jesus had prophesized.

On this Good, Friday let us not make the same mistake as had  many, if not most, of the Lord’s disciples. Today we need not cover our heads with ashes or wear robes of mourning, instead, we should rejoice in the gift from God through His Son Jesus, who thought he died on the cross for our sins.

Our Lord and Savior overcame death, which is our judgment for sin, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was raised from dead. Jesus not only defeated death, but he also defeated the devil, who had deceived Adam and Eve so they had disobeyed God the Father, and brought this judgment of death for sin upon themselves and upon all their descendants.

When we eat the bread element and drink the juice element of Communion today, we should remember the Lord’s body was broken and of the blood Jesus shed in order to pay for the judgment for humanity’s sins Though neither gift, of salvation or life eternal, is deserved by any of us, we should celebrate and rejoice in the sacrifice and victory of Jesus, because we do know “the rest of the story,” which is the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus! While we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins, as a sign of God’s love for each one of us! He died as the son of man, only to be resurrected as Son of God, or should I say God the Son.

I invite all of you to return here this Easter Sunday to celebrate the “rest of the story” of Christ, Jesus.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday, He Died for Me

Video: Yesterday He Died For Me                                          

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 15:56-57): The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire’

 © March 21, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages shared at BLCF on February 23, 2019, on August 27, 2017, and on July 28, 2013

BLCF Bulletin February 24, 2019

BLCF Bulletin August 27, 2017

BLCF Bulletin July 28, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                  

Opening Prayer Hymn #195: Fill Me Now (Hover o’er Me, Holy Spirit); Choruses    

Tithing and Prayer Requests; Hymn #572: Praise God                                       

Responsive Reading #654: The Holy City (-from Revelation 21)                  

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                         

‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire’

Let us pray…

Good morning and a Happy Spring for 2021! This year, the first day of spring is defined as the vernal equinox, where the Sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal, happens on March 20. The March (Vernal Equinox) is when the Sun crosses the celestial equator, moving from south to north. This date is considered to be the first day of spring. Today, being the 21st day of March, will be the first complete spring day for 2021.

March 16 happens to mark one year since Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship closed down all personal gatherings for BLCF Church and BLCF Cafe Community Dinner. We are thank the Lord for providing our church with the means to maintain and keep our building and church property until the day that we may all be together again as a congregation. With the advent of vaccines, we hope that that day will be forthcoming soon. In the meantime, keep in contact by phone and social media, and for the safety those not yet vaccinated, wear a mask, keep a social distance of 2 meters/6 feet, wash your hands, and continue to trust in God!

Our lesson today is entitled: ‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire.’  The invention of fire had a profound effect on our world. Fire brings us heat to counter the cold, allows us to cook our food and to illuminate our surroundings. Fire enabled members of society to work through the night and led to the advancement of the civilization of humanity.

The first use of fire is lost in prehistory and the subject of much conjecture and speculation. According to ancient mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. Fire was likely first discovered by accident event, as a result of natural causes, such as volcanic eruption, ignition of marsh gas, or more likely from a lightning strike.

There are numerous references in the Bible to the use and significance of fire. In most scriptures that mention fire included describing the manifestation of the power and presence of God. We find a clear example of His power and presence in this morning’s Scripture from 1 Kings 18:

1 Kings 18:20-40 (ESV): The Prophets of Baal Defeated

20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.”26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 

28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs[a] of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.”34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 18:32 A seah was about 7 quarts or 7.3 liters

A severe drought and famine in the region of Samaria led to God’s Prophet Elijah facing off against some 450 prophets of the god Baal. Elijah was critical of the people wavering between this god and the true Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.

Elijah proposes to the people the building of two altars, each with its own sacrificial bull. To one, the prophets of Baal will call upon the god Baal to ignite the wood of the altar. And with the other, Elijah will call upon God, Jehovah, to ignite to wood. The people and the 450 Baal prophets accept the challenge.

For hours, the prophets of Baal called in vain, upon their god, Baal to ignite their altar.  The prophets even resorted to cutting themselves to elicit a response from Baal. And no fire came; Baal did not reply.

Now it was Elijah’s turn. But to make things interesting, Elijah instructed the people to douse the offering and wood with four jars of water, not once, not twice; but three times!

I recall camping a few summers ago and trying to ignite some wet wood. It was not easy. Just when you have some flames, the fire dies out.

The wood on the altar constructed by Elijah wasn’t just damp, being soaked by a dozen jars of water to the point that excess water collected in a trench surrounding the altar. But this did not deter Elijah’s faith, nor did it deter him from calling upon God. Elijah had proceeded as the Lord instructed. He acknowledged the authority of the Lord saying “I am your servant”. He asked that God would start the fire, not as a response to a request to do the bidding of Elijah. Instead, Elijah implored the Lord to start the fire to change the hearts of those who had turned away from God and to restore their faith.

God’s response was to send a fire of such intensity, that it not only consumed the offering, wood, and stones, so all that was left was dust. And all the water, including that in the trench, had evaporated. God’s response was clear and definitive, leaving no doubt in the minds of the people of Israel. The people fell on their knees, acknowledging that “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

And the 450 prophets of Baal were executed. Such was the judgment of God. And afterword, the Lord kept His promise by bringing rain to end the drought.

If you look at the back of today’s bulletin, you will see a list of several instances in the Bible, where the power and glory of God are expressed in some form of flame or fire.

Most of us are acquainted with the Prophet Moses’ encounter with the Lord, who revealed Himself as a Burning Bush, Exodus 3:1-6 (ESV):

The Burning Bush

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

At the time of this account, Moses was 80 years of age. Having been expelled to die in the desert by Pharaoh, Moses had lived the next 40 years as a shepherd and had seen most that the dessert had to offer. But something had caught his eye. The English translations translate what Moses saw as a bush, but a more accurate translation of the Hebrew word seneh is brambles. While we could spend the rest of today’s sermon debating the inaccuracy of the translation and the merits of the original Hebrew over inaccuracies of English translations, such discussions have no real bearing on the lesson our Lord is trying to convey and only act as a distraction from the main theme of the passage. Now back to Moses.

Moses noted that while the bush or brambles burned, it was not consumed by fire. And when he drew close to the bush, Moses saw an angel in a flame of fire in the midst of the bush. And when the Lord had seen that Moses turned aside to see, God admonished Moses to not come closer and to remove his sandals, as the ground that Moses stood upon was Holy ground. And the Lord identified himself as the God of Moses father, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God reveals Himself to Moses as a burning bush, the flames burning supernaturally without ceasing.

After God used Moses to deliver the Hebrew people from enslavement in Egypt, He did not forsake them, Exodus 13:21-22 (ESV):

21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

We must remember that that light is not just a tool of mankind, but an expression of the presence of the Lord, Exodus 24:17 (ESV):

17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

But the fire and flame of the Lord is not only a source of comfort to the faithful but will be an expression of God’s judgment upon those who are not of value to His Kingdom, considered to be like thorns and brambles, Isaiah 10:17 (ESV):

17 The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and briers in one day.

This same fire is as an expression of God’s ability to refine and cleanse us of impurity and filth, Malachi 3:2 (ESV):

2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.

Refiners use fire to melt and separate precious metals such as silver and gold from non-precious metals found in the ore. Each stage extracts the purer metal. And fuller’s soap is used in a process to wash and clean raw wool of impurities and odors.

We find a more direct description of the Lord’s fire, by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11 (ESV): 

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   

You will note that the Prophet indicated that baptism in water is an act we do for repentance, but only the Lord can baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. So when the believer receives the Holy Spirit, the same fire which is an expression of God, also is received, Acts 2:1-4 (ESV):

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.   

So the followers of Jesus Christ are given the Holy Spirit as a Comforter and the gifts of fire which is the glory of God, Hebrews 1:7 (ESV): 

 7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

To better understand Hebrews 1:7 let us back up to the first four verses of Hebrew 1, Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV):

The Supremacy of God’s Son

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

In the above passage, we see that Jesus is described as the radiance of the glory of God, and like a refiner purifying precious gold; He purifies us from sin, through His son, Jesus Christ.

In Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, we see that Christ is talking with two prophets, Moses and Elijah, who had experienced the power and presence of God by fire and flame. And we have an idea of this radiance in the description of Jesus in the account, in Matthew 17:1-8 (ESV):

The Transfiguration

17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

 Footnotes:  a. Matthew 17:5 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

I believe Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus gives us some idea as to how it will be with Jesus after our own resurrection. Just like Moses and Elijah, we will be able to see our Lord, present in all His glory; radiant and full of light, bright like the fire of the sun. May this vision ignite a fire of passion and faith to share with all those around us the love of God as is expressed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, for this is the Savior’s final commandment our Lord gave to us. For it only takes a spark of faith, to ignite the fire that is found in the presence and power God’s love.

Let us pray…

Hymn #484: Pass It On (It Only Takes a Spark)

Benediction – (Numbers 6:24-26): The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Standing by Faith on Heaven’s Table Land

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘’Standing by Faith on Heaven’s Table Land’ 

© March 14, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Messages Shared at BLCF on February 2, 2020 and on November 17, 2013

BLCF Bulletin February 2, 2020

BLCF Bulletin November 17, 2013

 

 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #25: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee; Choruses

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings; Prayer Requests

Responsive Reading #611 (Comfort from God – Isaiah 40)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                      

Standing by Faith on Heaven’s Table Land and Call to Worship; Prayer

Let us pray…

Our lesson today comes from Jeremiah, Chapters 41 and 42 tell the story of the assassination of Gedaliah, the ruling governor, by Ishmael while dining together at Mizpah. In Jeremiah Chapter 40, we read that Gedaliah was forewarned by Johanan the son of Kareah, who had learned that the Amorites had approached Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to kill the governor. Not only did Gedaliah refuse to heed Johanan’s warning, but he accused him of telling lies. Gedaliah’s misplaced trust in Ismael was a fatal decision.

Jeremiah 40:1-6 (ESV): Jeremiah Remains in Judah

40 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he took him bound in chains along with all the captives of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon. 2 The captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him, “The Lord your God pronounced this disaster against this place. 3 The Lord has brought it about, and has done as he said. Because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey his voice, this thing has come upon you. 4 Now, behold, I release you today from the chains on your hands. If it seems good to you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will look after you well, but if it seems wrong to you to come with me to Babylon, do not come. See, the whole land is before you; go wherever you think it good and right to go.    5 If you remain,[a] then return to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon appointed governor of the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people. Or go wherever you think it right to go.” So the captain of the guard gave him an allowance of food and a present, and let him go. 6 Then Jeremiah went to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, at Mizpah, and lived with him among the people who were left in the land.

         Jeremiah 41:1-18 (ESV): Gedaliah Murdered

41 In the seventh month, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family, one of the chief officers of the king, came with ten men to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, at Mizpah. As they ate bread together there at Mizpah, 2 Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the ten men with him rose up and struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, with the sword, and killed him, whom the king of Babylon had appointed governor in the land. 3 Ishmael also struck down all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the Chaldean soldiers who happened to be there.

4 On the day after the murder of Gedaliah, before anyone knew of it, 5 eighty men arrived from Shechem and Shiloh and Samaria, with their beards shaved and their clothes torn, and their bodies gashed, bringing grain offerings and incense to present at the temple of the Lord. 6 And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah came out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he came. As he met them, he said to them, “Come in to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.” 7 When they came into the city, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the men with him slaughtered them and cast them into a cistern. 8 But there were ten men among them who said to Ishmael, “Do not put us to death, for we have stores of wheat, barley, oil, and honey hidden in the fields.” So he refrained and did not put them to death with their companions.

9 Now the cistern into which Ishmael had thrown all the bodies of the men whom he had struck down along with[a] Gedaliah was the large cistern that King Asa had made for defense against Baasha king of Israel; Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with the slain. 10 Then Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people who were in Mizpah, the king’s daughters and all the people who were left at Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah took them captive and set out to cross over to the Ammonites.

11 But when Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, 12 they took all their men and went to fight against Ishmael the son of Nethaniah. They came upon him at the great pool that is in Gibeon. 13 And when all the people who were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him, they rejoiced. 14 So all the people whom Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah turned around and came back, and went to Johanan the son of Kareah. 15 But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites. 16 Then Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him took from Mizpah all the rest of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, after he had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam—soldiers, women, children, and eunuchs, whom Johanan brought back from Gibeon. 17 And they went and stayed at Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem, intending to go to Egypt 18 because of the Chaldeans. For they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.                                                                                                                 

Footnotes: a. Jeremiah 41:9 Hebrew by the hand of

Jeremiah 42:1-17 (ESV): Warning Against Going to Egypt

42 Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near 2 and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— 3 that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” 4 Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.” 5 Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. 6 Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”

7 At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. 8 Then he summoned Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, 9 and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him: 10 If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you. 11 Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. 12 I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land. 13 But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the Lord your God 14 and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, 16 then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die. 17 All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them.

So who were the Amorites who arranged the assassination of Gedaliah and why?

Let’s check our Wikibits for a historical backdrop to Gedaliah’s death:

Amorites

The term Amorites is used in the Bible to refer to certain highland mountaineers who inhabited the land of Canaan, described in Genesis 10:16 as descendants of Canaan, son of Ham. They are described as a powerful people of great stature “like the height of the cedars,” (Amos 2:9) who had occupied the land east and west of the Jordan. The height and strength mentioned in Amos 2:9 has led some Christian scholars, including Orville J. Nave, who wrote the classic Nave’s Topical Bible to refer to the Amorites as “giants.”[7]

The Amorite king, Og, was described as the last “of the remnant of the Rephaim” (Deut. 3:11). The terms Amorite and Canaanite seem to be used more or less interchangeably, Canaan being more general and Amorite a specific component among the Canaanites who inhabited the land.

The Biblical Amorites seem to have originally occupied the region stretching from the heights west of the Dead Sea (Gen. 14:7) to Hebron (13:8; Deut. 3:8; 4:46-48), embracing “all Gilead and all Bashan” (Deut. 3:10), with the Jordan valley on the east of the river (4:49), the land of the “two kings of the Amorites,” Sihon and Og (Deut. 31:4; Josh. 2:10; 9:10). Both Sihon and Og were independent kings. These Amorites seem to have been linked to the Jerusalem region, and the Jebusites may have been a subgroup of them. The southern slopes of the mountains of Judea are called the “mount of the Amorites” (Deut. 1:7, 19, 20).

Five kings of the Amorites were first defeated with great slaughter by Joshua (10:10). Then more Amorite kings were defeated at the waters of Merom by Joshua (Josh. 11:8). It is mentioned that in the days of Samuel, there was peace between them and the Israelites (1 Sam. 7:14). The Gibeonites were said to be their descendants, being an offshoot of the Amorites that made a covenant with the Hebrews; when Saul would break that vow and kill some of the Gibeonites, God sent a famine to Israel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amorite

It seems that the Amorites were embittered by how the people of Israel were treated by the king of Babylon. Some were released from captivity, including Jeremiah, with others left in the care of Gedaliah at Mizpah. Johanan the son of Kareah brought a force to free those captured by Ismael and to avenger the murder of Gedaliah. But Ismael had managed to escape and Johanan and other leaders now feared their own deaths at the hands of Ismael and decided to flee to Egypt. They sought out Jeremiah, God’s prophet, for approval of their plan:

 “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— 3 that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.”      – Jeremiah 42:2-3 (ESV)

In Verse 4 of Jeremiah 42, we read Jeremiah’s response:

“I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.”   – Jeremiah 42:4 (ESV)  

                  

And then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. 6 Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” – Jeremiah 42:5-6 (ESV).

It sounds like Johanan and the others had already decided on a plan of action, without first seeking God’s approval, and now seek God’s approval after the fact. We get the impression that rather seeking the Lord’s direction; they wanted God’s rubber-stamp approval to their plan. Funny how some of the so-called faithful seem to behave that God is subject to their beck and call, rather than the other way around!  Lack of trust and faith in the Lord can result in fear and distrust.

When reading the account of an assassination in Jeremiah, I am reminded of another assassination on a fateful day, November 22, 1963. I recall clearly after lunch going to my locker at Sam Rayburn Jr. High in San Antonio and my friend John approached me and said that the President had been shot in the head. I told him that he should be doing something better than going around the halls of the school telling sick jokes. After all President Kennedy was popular with many of the youth. Ironically, my dad, Harry L. Mickelson, was a television news editor for KENS-TV, a CBS Network outlet in San Antonio, Texas had a sound on film interview with President Kennedy the day before he was killed in Dallas. Among other things, Kennedy indicated that he planned to pull the US troops out of Viet Nam by the middle of 1964. This interview was filed away in the tombs of KENS and was never broadcast because of the events that happened the next day. Regretfully, I learned later that KENS had disposed of their old library of news stories. Like Gedaliah in Jeremiah’s time, Kennedy was a leader who showed compassion particularly to the disenfranchised, as we see in Jeremiah 40:7-12 (ESV):

7 When all the captains of the forces in the open country and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land and had committed to him men, women, and children, those of the poorest of the land who had not been taken into exile to Babylon, 8 they went to Gedaliah at Mizpah—Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, Johanan the son of Kareah, Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, Jezaniah the son of the Maacathite, they and their men. 9 Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, swore to them and their men, saying, “Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Dwell in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you. 10 As for me, I will dwell at Mizpah, to represent you before the Chaldeans who will come to us. But as for you, gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that you have taken.” 11 Likewise, when all the Judeans who were in Moab and among the Ammonites and in Edom and in other lands heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, as governor over them, 12 then all the Judeans returned from all the places to which they had been driven and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah. And they gathered wine and summer fruits in great abundance. 

The 1960s were quite a turbulent time in the history of the United States. The first Roman Catholic was elected President and was assassinated. The same fate happened to his brother, Robert Kennedy, as he ran for the same office as his brother, as well as Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Racial riots and anti-war protests all were part of a turbulent period in US history not unlike the recent Arab Spring Revolution. Echoes of the same sentiments may be heard by radical political groups today.

January 27, 2021, marked the 76th anniversary of the liberation Auschwitz Concentration Camp by soldiers of the 1st Ukrainian Front of the Red Army. Historians estimate more than 1 million Jews, Gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war, and Poles were murdered at the camp.

Sadly, wars continue, with the killing of soldiers and innocents in violation of God’s laws. God sanctioned the death of only one man, his son Jesus, who died to atone for our sins, for our transgressions. And as Jesus had been resurrected by the power of the Spirit, believers who confess to having sinned and accept the sacrifice of Jesus, are given the assurance of forgiveness, the covenant of the resurrection from death, and the gift of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. As believers in the Resurrected Christ, the expectation from God is to follow His direction and to honour and glorify Him as Lord in our lives.

This is not what happened with Johanan and the others who dishonored God. They demonstrated a lack of faith in God’s power and protection by desiring to flee to Egypt from the threat of Ismael. Even though they said that they would abide by God’s reply, their decision to flee show an absence of trust in their God. As we see in in the passage Jeremiah 42:7-17 (ESV):

7 At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. 8 Then he summoned Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, 9 and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him: 10 If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you. 11 Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. 12 I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land. 13 But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the Lord your God 14 and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, 16 then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die. 17 All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them. 

God expects us to demonstrate faith and trust, particularly in times of adversity. He does not want us to revert back to our old life, as Johanan and the others had sought when they decided to ask Jeremiah to get God’s approval to flee into Egypt, a nation of idols, false gods and lack of faith in the one true God. And God made it clear that a such action is an act of disobedience and breach of a covenant with the Lord, resulting in the death, which they fear.

As believers in the resurrected Christ, Jesus, we are held to a similar standard of faith and trust in the Lord. Jesus has promised us his kingdom and in return, we must demonstrate to God worship that is acceptable, with reverence and awe.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #355: I’m Pressing on the Upward Way

Benediction – (Hebrews 12:28-29): Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Daylight Savings Time – Wake Up And Go To Sleep!

Daylight Savings Time kicks in this weekend. So remember to set your alarm for 2AM Sunday in order to wake up and set your clocks ahead 1 hour then go to sleep!

⏰😫

The Love of Jesus as Expressed in a Parable, a Lesson, and a Judgment

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

The Love of Jesus as Expressed in a Parable, a Lesson, and a Judgment’

© March 7, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on February 9, 2020, 

BLCF Bulletin February 9, 2020

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                  

Opening Hymn #302: I Love to Tell the Story; Choruses                             

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests                             

Responsive Reading #671: God’s Love and Ours (1 John 4)                          

Message by Steve Mickelson:

‘The Love of Jesus as Expressed in a Parable, a Lesson, and a Judgment’

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service for the first Sunday of March. Today’s lesson, entitled The Love of Jesus as Expressed in a Parable, a Lesson, and a Judgment, we will examine three expressions of our Lord’s love, from a parable, a lesson, and events on Judgment Day.

Jesus answered the question, “How does one inherit eternal life”, with the aid of a parable, as described in Luke 10:25-37 (ESV):

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

 25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 10:35 A denarius was a day’s wage for a labor

In this passage, a lawyer who is knowledgeable in the legalities of the Scriptures sought to test Jesus by asking him what does he need to do to inherit eternal life, to which the Lord replied what is his understanding of this matter from God’s Word. The lawyer replied by stating the requirement of unconditional love for God and to love our neighbor as ourselves, which is a distillation of God’s Ten Words or Commandments given to Moses to be delivered to the People of Israel, dealing with how God expects his people to relate to Him and to others.

A definition of the 10 Commandments comes from the online Encyclopedia Britannica:

Ten Commandments, also called Decalogue (Greek: deka logoi [“10 words”]), list of religious precepts that, according to various passages in Exodus and Deuteronomy, were divinely revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai and were engraved on two tablets of stone. The Commandments are recorded virtually identically in Exodus 20: 2–17 and Deuteronomy 5: 6–21.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ten-Commandments

When the lawyer asked Jesus to explain,” Who would he consider to be a neighbour?”  Jesus answered the lawyer’s question by telling him a Parable about an act of kindness given to a beaten traveler by a Samaritan passing by. Jesus described how both a priest and Levite, also passing by the beaten man, refused to stop and render assistance to the beaten man. Jesus asked the lawyer, which of the three passers-by proved to be a neighbor to the man who was beaten and robbed, to which the lawyer replied, the Samaritan. Ironically, the Jews were too busy traveling to stop and give assistance to the traveler.

And when ministering to others, Jesus emphasized humility, as we see in his lesson taught washing his disciples’ feet, as described in John 13:1-17 (ESV):  

Jesus Washes The Disciples’ Feet

 13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,[a] but is completely clean. And you[b] are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Footnotes: a.John 13:10 Some manuscripts omit except for his feet b. John 13:10 The Greek words for you in this verse are plural c. John 13:16 Or bondservant, or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)

In this passage, Jesus indicated that though we should remember his lesson of washing his disciples’ feet, performing the act as a humble servant. This lesson emphasized a construct that is inverted from how many prioritize their relationships with God and with others.

Often we may behave in a manner where our needs are first, and then help our neighbors, and lastly how we honour God. This is opposite how Jesus taught in his foot-washing exercise, where he sought to have us place ourselves subservient to others, which submissive to God’s will.

Jesus’ lesson has God at the top of our priority list, with our neighbors next, and ourselves last.

Just how important the relationships between ourselves to God and our neighbours are with respect to how we will be judged by the Lord on Judgment Day is described as the parable of the shepherd  sorting out his flock of sheep from the goats described in our final Scripture passage in our lesson today, found in Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV):

 The Final Judgment

 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

It is obvious how we demonstrate our love and compassion to the least of our brothers and sisters will reveal how we honour our Lord, and how in-turn we will be judged, and in-turn inherits eternal life, on the Day of Judgment.

Closing Hymn  #284: Yesterday He Died For Me

 Benediction – (Romans 8:38-39):

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor’

© February 28, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Originally Shared with BLCF on August 17, 2014, and on March 26 17, 2017

BLCF Bulletin March 26, 2017

BLCF Bulletin August 17, 2014

 Announcements and Call to Worship:

Opening Prayer: Matthew 6:9-14

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done,                                                                                             
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,                                                                                                  12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,                                                                                                      but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses,                                                                                      your heavenly Father will also forgive you

Hymn #339: More About Jesus Would I Know; Choruses

Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Prayer and Tithing – Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome, again, to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Sunday Praise and Worship service, in the heart of Toronto. An important part of a believer’s praise and worship is setting aside part of your day for prayer. In order to sense God’s presence, it is helpful to make that prayer time in the quiet of the day. Often that time is either early in the morning or late at night when it is quiet and free from distractions.  At times of particular need or concern, for oneself or for others, is another good time to converse with the Lord through prayer. And of course, don’t forget to praise Him at times of victory and to thank Him for answered prayer.

For the Mickelson family, prayer time came at the end of the day, at the very least. Sophie and I started this tradition after we were married, and carried it on with our children. With the kids, the prayer would be a time to remember everyone in the family and to remember those in the extended family, as well as prayer concerns for our friends. Often, prayer time included reading from the Bible. I am happy to see that my eldest child, Athena, now married with three children of her own carries on the tradition of prayer before bed.

The Scriptures indicate that for Jesus, the preferred time for prayer was the evening, in a quiet place, such as a mountain top or in a garden. In this morning’s scripture, in Luke 9, we see that Jesus went up on a mountain to pray.

On one occasion, the Scriptures record that Jesus brought along three of his disciples, Peter, John, and James, to pray on a mountain.  It was on this mountain, which many scholars believe to be Mount Tabor, an event described in Luke 9:27-36, that the three disciples bore witness to something more than just the Lord at prayer:

Luke 9:27-36 (ESV)

27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

The Transfiguration

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure,[a] which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One;[b] listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

Footnotes: a. Luke 9:31 Greek exodus b. Luke 9:35 Some manuscripts my Beloved

Jesus brought along with him Peter, James, and John, where it is described in verse 32 that the three became “heavy with sleep”. The scriptures do not say why they started to become drowsy. You might speculate that it was from the exertion of climbing the mount. A similar thing happened to those who joined Jesus when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, just before his crucifixion. I believe part of it may be the effect of being in God’s presence. Needless to say, the three awoke to see that Jesus’ appearance had changed: both his face and clothing were transfigured, and he seemed to be floating among the clouds. And Jesus was observed talking with Moses and Elijah.

Transfigured is an interesting word. It is the English translation from the Greek Scriptures of “metamorpho” meaning to transform, literally or figuratively, to metamorphose, or to change. It is a verb and therefore means to change into another form. Christ’s death and resurrection are often symbolized by the butterfly, which changes or metamorphoses in a chrysalis from a larva, then to a pupa, and then ending as a butterfly. These changes are similar to Christ began in human form before the crucifixion, then as the Resurrected Christ, and finally, as the Ascended Christ.

What a sight that must have been to behold! And then to actually hear the voice of God stating: “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!”

It is interesting to note that God appears to make this statement as a response to Peter’s impulsive suggestion that the three disciples should build three tents in honour of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. If you go back to verse 27, you will see that perhaps God’s words were spoken, not as a reaction to the comment by the disciple about building temples. More likely, God spoke in agreement with the statement made by Jesus, as we see recorded in John 9:27“But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

This is not the first time that the disciples struggled to comprehend the meaning and significance of a miracle of Jesus that they had just witnessed. For what they had observed was a glimpse of the glory of Heaven that Jesus alluded to in Luke 9, verse 27.

This miracle, like that where Jesus walked upon the waters of the Sea of Galilee, was another of the rare miracles in the Gospels, where Jesus was the object of the miracle.

Thomas Aquinas considered the Transfiguration to be “the greatest miracle” in that it complemented the baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven.

Another instance in the Scriptures of God speaking occurred just after Jesus was baptized, where the Father spoke from Heaven saying: “This is my beloved Son, with who I am well pleased.” For Jesus, this was his own personal Pentecost, where the power of the Holy Spirit came upon him.

The Transfiguration of Jesus is significant in that we have an account of the promise of Heaven and the Resurrected Life. By contrast Christ’s baptism, the Holy Spirit is observed afterward descending, “like a dove”, upon him. In this passage of Scripture recorded in Matthew 3:16-17, we have a presentation of the trinity of God, God’s voice in Heaven, Jesus the son’s baptism, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. All three are distinct, and each being the presence of God.

There is a third account in the New Testament, where a voice speaks from Heaven, which occurs during the conversion of Paul, known formerly as Saul of Tarsus. That account is given in the Book of Acts, Chapter 9, verses 1-7, when Saul of Tarsus hears the Son of God ask “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And Saul, whose job was to arrest the followers of Christ, asks who is speaking? To which Jesus replies “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” indicating that an offense against a believer of Christ is considered to be an offense against Christ. Jesus then instructs him to “rise and enter the city” and that he would be told what to do.

The significance of this passage is how God convicts non-believers of faith, and how even the most stubborn of non-believers can be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Paul sometimes referred to as the thirteenth Apostle, had his conversion after Jesus’ earthly ministry. It is interesting that before his conversion, Saul of Tarsus was a member of the religious order which had Jesus put to death, and stoned Stephen, the first martyr of the followers of Christ.

Going back to Luke 9 and the Transfiguration, one may question why John, James, and Peter, were privy to this Heavenly vision of seeing Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus regarding his impending departure in Jerusalem. By departure, we are talking about the crucifixion as the Chosen One.

Though Jesus died for our sins, to redeem believers, so that they may become righteous and be acceptable unto God. All of the disciples, save John, died violent deaths because of their beliefs and their sharing of the miracles that Jesus performed, the most important being his resurrection, his ascension, and his gifting of the Holy Spirit. James was put to death by a sword, by order of King Herod. Peter, being a Roman citizen was not crucified; instead, he was beheaded in Rome, at the order of Nero. John, the first of the twelve disciples to follow Jesus, and the last to die, did not die a violent death. The Apostle John did live long enough to see Jesus, as well as the eleven disciples, including his brother, James, die violently because of their beliefs.

The disciple’s individual faith may have wavered at one time or another,  each disciple, save for Judas Iscariot, was put to death in a violent manner, because of the conviction of the faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is Christ’s Gospel.

Further support to the notion is found in Luke 9 verse 27, “some standing here will not taste death until they see the Kingdom of God” referring to Peter, James, and John, the three who witnessed the Transfiguration, and who later acknowledged having seen the Kingdom of Heaven.

For Peter, we read in 2 Peter 1:16-18 (ESV):

 16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

It seems quite clear that Peter refers to the Transfiguration on the mount as a view of the majesty of the risen Christ and the voice of God in Heaven.

With John, we read another acknowledgment of glory in the Transfiguration:

John 1:14 (ESV)

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Most scholars of the Bible agree that in the vision of the Transfiguration of Jesus, that Moses represents the Laws or the Sacred Scriptures of God, as Moses had authored five of the book of the Old Testament, and he delivered God’s Ten Commandments to the Hebrew people. Elijah represents the Prophets of God. Jesus represents both the authority of God, and fulfillment of both the Word and the Prophets.

The account of Jesus’ baptism records the presence of the Trinity of God. The Trinity is observed again in the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus, the son, was observed with Moses and Elijah. God’s presence is found when His words were heard. And the cloud that appears represents the presence of the Holy Spirit.

You may ask: Why were Peter, James, and John were selected to witness Jesus’ Transfiguration?  Many scholars view that while Moses and Elijah represent God’s Faith in the Prophets and the Laws that preceded Jesus. The three disciples represent aspects of God’s Faith after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension: Peter represents the Faith of the Church, James represents Hope of love (i.e. loving one’s neighbor as oneself), and John represents the application of Charity in the good works of man. Together, we have a symbolic representation of the Trinity the faith in the Holy Spirit, the Hope through the Salvation of Christ, and the Charity of God our Father in heaven who provided a means that we might be sanctified in spite of our sinful nature.

As often occurs in the Gospel accounts, the apostles while witnessing a miracle of Jesus, lose track of its significance. You may recall in a previous message about the miracle where Jesus walked across the Sea of Galilee, following the feeding of the multitude, also known as the “Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes”. The disciples had yet to conclude that this supernatural miracle not only proved that Jesus had the power of God, but that Christ was God.

Only after Jesus easily walked across a stormy sea, against which the disciples had struggled for hours, did he perform the miracle whereby Peter with Jesus trod water, so long as he had his eyes fixed on Jesus. When Peter does take his gaze from Jesus and looks upon the sea, he sinks. Jesus performs yet another miracle by raising Peter out of the water: “Oh ye of little faith!”

Eventually, Jesus boards the boat containing the disciples and calms the stormy weather, and transports the boat, according to John’s Gospel, instantaneously across the water. It takes a series of supernatural miracles before the twelve finally acknowledge that Jesus is truly the son of God.

Like the people of Israel who kept losing the faith, while being led from Pharaoh’s Egypt, through the desert, to the Promised Land, the disciples kept forgetting who they were following. Perhaps this was the real purpose of the excursion that Jesus made with Peter, John, and James on Mount Tabor:  to remind the disciples that they were following the Son of God. In one account of the Transfiguration, Jesus instructed the three disciples not to tell anyone what they have seen until three days after His crucifixion.

As believers in the Gospel, what can you and I take home from the message of the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor? There are four key points to today’s lesson:

First, we have hope, through our faith, just as Jesus was transfigured into another form in Heaven,  we, too, will be resurrected to heave, by faith in the resurrected Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Second, just like the disciples, in spite of lapses in judgment and though we may continue to sin, if we continue to confess our sins, God will forgive our sins and by His grace and the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, God has a place for us in Heaven. “Though we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sin.”

And third, in spite of our inequities, Christ does not give up on us. As many times as it takes, he will patiently take us to the holy places, to remind us that “He will never leave or forsake us!”

Finally, as was observed earlier in today’s message, as Christ was baptized in water and the Holy Spirit, and then be reborn, in spirit and transfigured into a new, that on this earth, as believers we may be transfigured through faith in the Word and the promise of the salvation of the lamb, Jesus. We, too, may have the same vision that what we do on this world in the name of Jesus has the promise and power to transfigure us into a creature that is Holy and Sanctified. However, since Jesus has already died and arisen on the third day, there is no expectation of death’s darkness and silence, but an expectation that we may share the promise of having a new body, transfigured by faith in the fulfillment of Word, now made flesh in Jesus our Savior.

The Scriptures, through the disciples’ accounts of their observation of the   Transfiguration of Jesus, give believers a glimpse of the glorious afterlife we may expect to see when we are resurrected on the day Christ returns in his glory. This will be a day when we will sing, along with the angels of Heaven praises of hallelujah to the glory of the Lord.

The Day that Jesus returns in all of his glory will be a day of judgment; a day of deliverance; a day of our transfiguration.

Until that glorious day that we, as resurrected, transfigured believers are united with the Lord, we ae commissioned by our faith to share the truth of the gospel of Jesus that he died to make us holy and believing the truth of his message will set others free.

Let me finish today’s message by reading from Transfigured by Jay C. Treat, as a prayer (found on the back of today’s Bulletin):

(Dear God in Heaven)

We went up the mountain with Jesus,    

but quite unprepared for a surprise.

We never expected to see him    

transform right in front of our eyes!

His face was as bright as the sunlight;    

his clothes were as bright as the skies.

He talked with Elijah and Moses,    

who stood right in front of our eyes.

We thought we could build them three temples:    

one shrine for the giver of laws,

and one for Elijah the prophet,    

and one for this master of ours.

A bright cloud then covered the mountain.    

A Voice echoed deep from within,

Said, “This is my son, my beloved one!    

He pleases me! Listen to him!”

We came down the mountain with Jesus,    

now ready for any surprise.

We’re ready to listen and follow    

and change right in front of his eyes                                                                        

(In name of Jesus we pray – AMEN)

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #522: Battle Hymn of The Republic

Benediction – (Romans 15:13) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Standing on God’s Promises: The Rainbow Covenant

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: Matthew 26_26-28

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Standing on God’s Promises: The Rainbow Covenant’

© February 21, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared with BLCF on  June 13, 2010, on August 10, 2014, and on September 29, 2019

BLCF Bulletin September 29, 2019

BLCF: Bulletin August 10, 2014

June 20_2010 BLCF Bulletin

BLCF: Double-rainbow

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                     

Opening Hymn #225: Standing On the Promises

Prayers and Tithing – Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests

Responsive Reading #668 (The New Life of Prayer – Colossians 3)

Message by Steve Mickelson:  Standing on God’s Promises: The Rainbow Covenant’

Let us pray…

The story of Noah, God’s judgment, the ark full of animals, the great flood and the rainbow found in Book of Genesis is one of the best known to believers and non-believers, alike. The story has been retold in recent movies, where God’s truth is sometimes replaced by science or the imagination of Hollywood Screen Writers.

For this morning’s lesson at BLCF, we will focus our study on the “The Rainbow Covenant”. You may ask the question: “What is meant by the term covenant?” Webster’s Online gives us a couple of definitions which may help us understand. Webster’s definition is as follows:

Cov´e`nant   Pronunciation: k?v´?-n?nt noun

  (Theology) The promises of God as revealed in the Scriptures, conditioned on certain terms on the part of man, as obedience, repentance, faith, etc.I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.- Genenesis xvii. 7.
  A solemn compact between members of a church to maintain its faith, discipline, etc.
  (Law) An undertaking, on sufficient consideration, in writing and under seal, to do or to refrain from some act or thing; a contract; a stipulation; also, the document or writing containing the terms of agreement.

http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/Covenant

The Biblical use of covenant describes an agreement between God and either an individual or people. Scholars generally agree that the Scriptures contain about ten covenants. These ten can be divided into one of two types: as either unilaterally coming from God or bilaterally between God and the individuals or people.

Looking at the chart inside the bulletin, near the bottom left, you can get a brief overview with respect to the covenants found in the Holy Scriptures. Six of the Unilateral Covenants are concerned with obedience, sin, the Flood, the descendants of Abraham, the Ten Commandments. The three Bilateral Covenants are referred to as Blood Covenants, involving the patriarchs, Israel and all believers’ salvation. The final covenant is unilateral, which we refer to as the New Covenant between God and believers in the Gospel of Christ.

Let us continue with the story of Noah and God’s Rainbow Covenant, which begins at Genesis 6:1, ending at Genesis 9:17.

Noah’s Ark and the Flood – Story Summary (from about.com):

God saw how great wickedness had become and decided to wipe mankind from the face of the earth. However, one righteous man among all the people of that time, Noah, found favor in God’s eyes. With very specific instructions, God told Noah to build an ark for him and his family in preparation for a catastrophic flood that would destroy every living thing on earth.

God also instructed Noah to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, along with every kind of food to be stored as food for the animals and his family while on the ark. Noah obeyed everything God commanded him to do.

After they entered the ark, rain fell on the earth for a period of forty days and nights. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days, and every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out. As the waters receded, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Noah and his family continued to wait for almost eight more months while the surface of the earth dried out.

Finally after an entire year, God invited Noah to come out of the ark. Immediately, he built an altar and worshiped the Lord with burnt offerings from some of the clean animals. God was pleased with the offerings and promised never again to destroy all the living creatures as he had just done. Later God established a covenant with Noah: “Never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” As a sign of this everlasting covenant God set a rainbow in the clouds.

Points of Interest from the Story:

  • God’s purpose in the flood was not to destroy people, but to destroy wickedness and sin. • With more detail, God instructed Noah to take seven of every kind of clean animal, and two of every kind of unclean animal. Bible scholars have calculated that approximately 45,000 animals might have fit on the ark. • Genesis 7:16 interestingly points out that God shut them in the ark, or “closed the door,” so to speak.
  • The ark was exactly six times longer than it was wide. According to the Life Application Bible study notes, this is the same ratio used by modern ship builders. • In modern times researchers continue to look for evidence of Noah’s Ark.
  • Noah was righteous and blameless, but he was not sinless (see Genesis 9:20). Noah pleased God and found favor because he loved and obeyed God with his whole heart. As a result, Noah’s life was an example to his entire generation. Although everyone around him followed the evil in their hearts, Noah followed God.

 http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestorysummaries/p/noahsarkflood.htm

Noah’s Ark was huge! Genesis 6:15 in the Bible tells us the Ark’s dimensions were at least 135 meters long (300 cubits), 22.5 meters wide (50 cubits), and 13.5 meters high (30 cubits). That’s 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high! It could have been larger, because several larger-sized cubits were used. But the 45-centimeter (18-inch) cubit is long enough to show the enormous size of the Ark. A cubit was the length of a man’s arm from fingertips to elbow.

Noah’s Ark was three stories high (Genesis 6:16). Its total deck area was equivalent to the area of about 20 standard college basketball courts or 36 lawn tennis courts. The world had to wait until AD 1884 before the Ark’s size was exceeded, when the Italian liner Eturia was built.

The rectangular dimensions of the Ark show an advanced design in ship-building. Its length of six times its width and 10 times its height would have made it amazingly stable on the ocean. Remember it was made more for floating than sailing, because it wasn’t headed anywhere. The Ark was made to withstand a turbulent ocean voyage, not to be at a certain place at a certain time.

Recent thought on the Ark’s design is that it could have had a slightly tapered top at the front and back, instead of being squared off. But the famous rock formation near Mount Ararat with pointed ends, which some think is Noah’s Ark, is definitely not!

Interestingly, British civil and mechanical engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel built a steamship (the Great Britain) in 1843 that had almost the same proportions as the Ark, although it was smaller. This was regarded as a remarkable feat of Victorian and maritime engineering. The Great Britain was the first large vessel to be propelled by a screw propeller.

In summary, Noah’s Ark was taller than a 3-story building and had a deck area the size of 36 lawn tennis courts. Its length was 300 cubits (450 feet, or 135 meters); its width was 50 cubits (75 feet, or 22.5 meters); it had three stories and its height was 30 cubits (45 feet, or 13.5 meters).

http://www.creationtips.com/arksize.html

Questions and Answers, from: biblia.com

Question: “How long did it take Noah to build the ark? How long was Noah on the ark?”

Answer:  The Bible does not specifically say how long it took Noah to build the ark. When Noah is first mentioned in Genesis 5:32, he was 500 years old. When Noah entered the ark, he was 600 years old. The time it took to build the ark would depend on how much time had passed between Genesis 5:32 and the time that God commanded Noah to build the ark (Genesis 6:14-21). At the absolute most, it took 100 years.

Question: How long was Noah on the ark?

Answer:  Noah entered the ark in the 600th year of his life, on the 17th day of the 2nd month (Genesis 7:11-13). Noah left the ark on the 27th day of the 2nd month of the following year (Genesis 8:14-15). Therefore, assuming a lunar calendar of 360 days, Noah was on the ark for approximately 370 days, the flood lasting for 150 days. Genesis 7:11-13 (ESV):

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark…

BLCF" Noah's Ark

Genesis 8:14-15 (ESV):

14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15 Then God said to Noah…

Question: How many of each type of animal did Noah take on the ark? Seven pairs of each kind of clean animal and two pairs of each kind of other animals were taken on the ark (Genesis 6:19-20; 7:2-3). By “clean” the Bible means animals that were “acceptable for sacrifice.” That is why seven pairs of the clean animals were taken – so some of them could be sacrificed after the Flood was over without endangering the species. Genesis 6:19-20 (ESV):

19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive.

Genesis 7:2-3 (ESV):

Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals,[a] the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs[b] of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 7:2 Or seven of each kind of clean animal b. Genesis 7:3 Or seven of each kind

Question: How many people were on Noah’s ark? 

Answer: According to Genesis 7:13, Noah, his wife, Noah’s three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth), and their wives were on the ark. Therefore, there were eight people on the ark.

13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark,

Question: Who was Noah’s wife?

Answer: The Bible nowhere specifically gives us the name or identity of Noah’s wife. There is a tradition that she was Naamah (Genesis 4:22). While possible, this is not explicitly taught in the Bible, Genesis 4:11 (ESV):

22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

http://biblia.com

It must have been quite a curiosity to others seeing Noah, spending decades building the ark. The dedication of Noah to the task is undeniable. Others continued to offend God and ultimately their fate was sealed by the waters of the Great Flood.

Now let me make a few observations about both God’s judgment and His covenant. Actually, there are two covenants from God; the first was the judgment by God, the penalty of death. We observe that God decides to do a reset and bring the earth back to Day two of creation as told in Genesis 1:6-8, where there are only the waters, with no land. The land came on the third day of creation.

While the judgment may seem harsh, God did not destroy all life by the flood, but He had in the ark, a means to preserve animal life and the human race, both precious to Him. The waters cleansed the world of evil.

It is interesting that Noah sent a dove to determine whether the world was safe in Genesis 8:6-12 (ESV) we read:

6At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove and she did not return to him anymore.

The dove is an interesting choice. Though it is mentioned over fifty times the scriptures, we that the dove is significant in appearance and what it represents in two passages:

Immediately after Jesus was baptized in water by John, we read the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ: Mark’s Gospel 1:10 (ESV): 10And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

So as Jesus was baptized and reborn with the Spirit, the earth is cleansed by water and a dove descends with an olive leaf. I would like to point out that the olive branch has been used as a universal symbol of peace and reconciliation. The city-states of ancient Greece sought to end wars between its states, replacing competition and conflict with the Olympic Games. Wars and battles were suspended for the duration of the competition. The winner a specific event was rewarded not with the medallions of the modern Olympics, but instead a garland of olive branches woven into a crown, the Olympian being crowned as a king of that event. That crown of olive branches brings to mind the crown of thorns Christ wore, as he suffered and died to atone for our sins. In the times of Christ, the oil from olives was used to fuel the lamps of the empire. And the dove carrying the olive leaf to Noah after the flood could be viewed to symbolize the Spirit bringing life, hope, and light to the world.

God made a promise never to destroy human or animal life by flood, again.

Genesis 9:8-17 (ESV)

8Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”   

The rainbow is significant in several ways. Like a prism, water mist can diffract or break a beam of light into a spectrum or rainbow of component colours. But you need the presence of water vapour and sunlight, under the right conditions, invisible light becomes visible as a rainbow of colours. Not only does the rainbow symbolize God’s covenant not to kill man or beast by flood, but the rainbow is also an example of the world of the invisible becoming visible. For many people God does not exist, he is invisible. Through faith, as with Noah’s obedience by building the ark and gathering the animals and his family, he was rewarded by being saved from the flood and given the rainbow as a symbol never to bring this judgment upon the people or beasts again.

A few years ago, Sophie and I took a trip to Niagara Falls. Every time we go to the falls, I am always humbled by the beauty and splendor of God’s natural creation. Looking at the millions of liters of water cascading over the waterfall creating the sound of thunder and clouds of mist, you cannot but marvel at the site. I remember as I was walking ahead towards the more spectacular Horseshoe Falls, I saw many in the crowd turning their backs on this natural wonder, looking across to the relatively less spectacular American Falls. Some were taking pictures. As I approached these people, I looked in the same direction and saw nothing. I could not figure out why they were taking pictures of the ordinary downstream gorge when the full power and beauty of the falls were just behind them?

It wasn’t until I continued 20 or 30 meters upstream, along the walkway, towards the falls did I have a glimpse of the object of the crowd’s attention. For as I walked towards the falls, did the mist of the falls mingle with the sunlight to reveal a beautiful rainbow. A few meters down, away from the falls, the rainbow disappeared from view.

It was then that I reflected that this rainbow is truly like God’s presence. For those who believe, who pray, and honour Him, we are rewarded by the rainbow of His presence. But for those unfortunate who reject Him and do not accept Him, there is no rainbow. And like those who cannot see the rainbow, because they lack faith or refuse to accept His gift of love and salvation, the unbelievers believe God does not exist. While they may look at the light, they do not see the hidden beauty of the rainbow that signifies God’s presence. Belief in God is like seeing the beauty hidden within. Faith is rewarded through confessing our sins, reading the scriptures, praying to God, and practicing brotherly love to our neighbors, as well as helping the least of our brothers. Only then are the conditions correct to see God’s rainbow of faith.

BLCF: Matthew_10-16

As followers of Christ, we are admonished to use our intelligence and integrity of faith to meet the challenges and persecution that we face in our Christian walk.

Matthew 10:16 (ESV) tells us that persecution will come:

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

The Holy Spirit helps us to preserve what is Godly in ourselves. We must maintain the innocence of the dove and bring the good news to others as the dove had to Noah, in spite of being persecuted for our faith.

My brother-in-law, Chuck is an avid flier, having obtained his pilot’s license before his license for a car. He spent several years building his open cockpit airplane. My sister Penny told me of the occasion on one of their trips, they passed through a deck of clouds, only to witness what is called a flier’s or pilot’s rainbow, which tradition has it to indicate good fortune, as they are leaving turbulent weather. The pilot’s rainbow is distinctive in that instead of being an arch of colour, the rainbow is a perfect circle surrounding the entire aircraft. I like to think that this might be the heavenly view of the rainbow. The rainbow God sees is a perfect circle, like a wedding band, the circle is continuous, unending, and just like God’s love for us is perfect and without end.

BLCF: Flier's_rainbow

God made another covenant; this one is bilateral but just as perfect, as beautiful, and as unending as the rainbow. Instead of the rainbow, God gave us Jesus Christ, to fulfill His promise, which states that we shall not perish or be destroyed. As Noah had shown by building the ark, filling it with the animals, and his family, we are expected to confess our sins and follow His directions by accepting that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins, this sacrifice is God’s gift to us. If we accept the gift of Christ, the lamb, we are saved and we are given the Holy Spirit as a comforter, plus the promise that as Christ overcame death and was resurrected, we too have the promise of overcoming death and eternal life. Jesus Christ is both our ark and rainbow. He provides for us the only way to forgiveness and the promise of life eternal.

BLCF: Jesus-Christ-Cross-Rainbow

In conclusion, anytime you want to witness to others who have yet to accept the sacrifice of Christ, or at times when you find that your own faith falters, remember the Rainbow, it is always there waiting to be revealed to us, when we provide the right conditions by our reading the scriptures, praying for others and ourselves, by showing the love of Christ in all that we think, all that we say, all that we do to all whom we encounter. And remember, it took Noah nearly a century of practicing faith before he saw the fulfillment of God’s promises. But Noah’s legacy was not only a covenant to Noah and his descendants and to us as well. The rainbow is a reminder to Noah, to us, and to God, that our God is just and faithful, and that our faith will be rewarded so long as we allow him to pilot us through life’s troubled waters.

Let us pray…

BLCF: covenant-of-grace

Closing Hymn #446: Jesus Saviour Pilot Me

Benediction – (Romans 15:13): 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

BLCF: dove_ark_hope_olive_branch